When Gab Campos isn’t caught in the rigors of university life, too often he finds himself on the rooftop of his family home: creating fun yet political content for video-sharing app Tiktok while clothes are left to dry in his backdrop.
The 18-year old broadcast communication student is among a wave Gen Z TikTokers who weave social issues into their spiels and dance numbers. He has 155,000 followers.
Its inevitable during the long-running quarantine, when there's so much in their heads and so much free time at home.
TikTok is an accidental news platform, something which the Chinese-made app is now embracing. Unlike its rivals, the Tiktok feed is non-chronological and political advertisements are banned. But the platform’s algorithmic penchant for “meme-able” and entertaining content made it easy for users to create things other than dance to challenges and food hacks.
It allowed fun-loving and "woke" teenagers like Campos to broadcast their political stand.
“Through this way na parang nakikipag-usap lang tayo and we’re making fun of things, medyo satire, napu-push po natin itong issues na ito to the forefront and mas nakikita ng mga tao,” Campos told reportr.
Tiktok is helping young people figure themselves out
Campos just turned 18 when he decided to join Tiktok early this year. As someone who was coming of age—and still is—he found himself easing into the platform and sharing various dance choreographies he learned during lockdown. It didn't take long for him to open up more and start talking.
“I don’t know why pero nag evolve po siya into socio-political stuff. Maybe because frustrated po ako sa mga nangyayari, frustrated din po sa mga tao on social media..hindi niyo ba talaga nakikita? Meron ba akong nakikita na hindi niyo nakikita?," he said.
The year 2020 was a defining year for Campos and Gen Z, who saw how with older generations in charge, things weren't looking so well.
Musings about his messed up body clock and out of control summer sweating soon evolved into political commentary, spiced with comedy to engage his audience.
In between his confrontations with the problem of colorism and how boys take ownership of female bodies, Campos still likes to talk about the things he enjoy.
"I don’t wanna be just someone who just produces content and sigaw-sigaw lang and preach-preach lang. Gusto ko rin po makilala nila ako as a person na nag-iisip lang, gusto dumaldal, and marami ring gusto," he said.
Growing up in today’s generation where it’s cool to have a stand, he said he still tries to not get caught up in the pressure and that he's taking the time to figure himself out. To him, it's perfectly okay to be all sorts of things—all at once.
“I am here to show how everybody’s complex. I am a complex person, I perform, I do all these different things. I can have flawed arguments but at the same time, I’m practicing. I need more research but at least i’m trying. I’m here to show that no one is one sided," he said.
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Tiktok is empowering young people
Regardless if it intended to or not, Tiktok endured and became a potent political tool for ideas-sharing on the internet. And just like past social media movements, it's young people who deserve all the credit.
In America, it was an 18-year old who tried to imagine a post-Trump impeachment scenario where Vice President Mike Pence would take charge and send queer teens to conversation therapy; more than the satirical humor, it taught a lesson on homophobia.
In Australia, a 22-year old had to "meme-fy" the Australian wildfires and compare it to the Notre Dame Cathedral fire in Paris so they could shed light on how underreported it was by media.
More than shedding light on issues, Campos hopes to inspire people his age to continue voicing out their opinions despite the generational divide between "boomers" and the youth.
“As a young person, maraming magsasabi sayo na wala ka pa masyadong alam diyan. Itigil mo yan, quiet ka lang diyan at magsasayaw ka lang ng TikTok,” he said.
“But that shouldn’t stop you from doing what you want. If you’re really passionate about these things... If you really did the research, and you’ve made an informed opinion, go out and share it because that could also inspire other young people like you. Fight back. Still do what you have to do and I assure you, may kalalagyan ka,” he said.